All posts by Matt Green

I am a father, husband, writer, businessman and educator. My personal blog site is and I can be contacted via email:

24 hours in the desert – Dew, Death and Dance Steps

Early mornings in the desert show you how lively the nights must have been. Small shrubs glistened with dew drops and the footprints of various animals lined the sandy floor like a dance studio for beginners. Before the heat of the day the desert offers up a serene landscape filled with birdsong, camel grunts and a misty outlook.

Misty Sunrise

Misty Sunrise

Once the sun comes up the temperature can soar over 50 degrees Celsius in the summer time and if you cannot find shelter then your days are numbered. It is as beautiful as it is deadly.

Palm Corpse

Palm Corpse

Maroubra Beach

Growing up in Sydney’s eastern suburbs meant sun, sand, surf and a wonderful life outdoors. Ok, I wasn’t much of a surfer, too uncoordinated! But that didn’t stop me from hanging out here – Maroubra Beach.

The South Maroubra rock pools were always full of interesting crustaceans, anemones, sea squirts (aka cunjevoi) and the odd blue ringed octopus to which we gave a wide berth. If the north-south runway at Kingsford-Smith Airport was in use then the only other sounds to be heard were the crashing of the waves, the laughing of the children and the crack of rifles on the range behind us.

North Maroubra (below) was where the majority of the surfers hung out. Although the waves today were a little low, and the wind slightly chilly, there were a few brave souls out in the whitewash. The “Rubik’s Cube” in the picture above marks the storm water outlet that, as adventurous teenagers, we walked up inside quite a distance whenever the grate wasn’t in place to catch the rubbish. People have since drowned in there, so I wouldn’t recommend it as tourist destination 😉

Fisherman also enjoyed the rocky outcrops hauling in schnapper, flathead, black fish, sea bream and salmon. About 50m off the coast at North Maroubra is the wreck of the Hereward, a clipper built in Glasgow in 1877. The ship was blown onto the soft sands and wrecked in 1898. Thanks to Stuart Ritchie for the video below.

I have a lot of wonderful memories of Maroubra as a child, a teenager, an adult and a dad, but my fondest occurred earlier this year when Heidi and I got married at Mistral Point overlooking my favourite beach in Sydney.

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

According to Wikipedia, in 1992 His Royal Highness Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said held a competition to design and build a Grand Mosque. Construction took six years to complete and the result is a stunning reflection of Islamic architecture.

The mosque occupies an area of approximately 416,000 square metres and can accommodate up to 20,000 worshipers within the grounds.

The external dimensions of the main prayer hall are 74m x 74m, with a central dome that rises 50 metres from the ground. Up to 6,500 people can pray at any one time within the main hall.

Intricate architecture inside the dome.

Intricate architecture inside the dome.

Hanging within the dome is the former Guinness world record holding 14 metre high Swarovski crystal chandelier that weighs a staggering 8.5 tonnes. It took four years to build and, until recently, was the largest chandelier in the world.

Underneath the 600,000+ glittering Swarovski crystals is arguably the second biggest hand-woven carpet in the world comprising 1,700 million knots and weighing 21 tonnes. Apparently it took 600 Iranian women 4 years to make. The size and scale of this rug made it hard to photograph properly.

There are sixteen smaller chandeliers lining the edges of the main prayer hall.The mosaic pattern of the Mihrab (below) deserved a closer inspection however the crowds on the day of our visit just would not allow this to happen. Built in the traditional semi-circular way the Mihrab indicates the direction of Mecca and hence the direction that worshipers should face when praying.

Buildings and walls surrounding the main prayer hall were inspired by traditional Omani fort architecture and incorporate verses of the Quran into the design.

Many of the internal walls have small niche’s like the one below that incorporate the Islamic motifs of other cultures. This one reflects ‘a contemporary interpretation of the patterns and designs which flourished during the reign of Tamerlane (1336-1405 AD) ruler of Central Asia’.

There are also fine marble ablution rooms for men and women.

Within the grounds are five minarets that symbolise the five pillars of Islam being Shahada (faith), Salat (prayer), Zakat (charity), Sawm (fasting) and Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca). The four smaller minarets occupy the corners of the mosque and a larger central one located adjacent to the dome.

The height of the central minaret (below) reaches 91.5m and has a 10.9 metre square base. From here the call to prayer is broadcast over the city six times a day.

Non-Muslims are welcome to visit the Grand Mosque between 8:00am and 11:00am any day other than Friday and it is definitely worth a visit. Please dress conservatively though out of respect for your hosts. Men should wear long trousers and have their shoulders covered, whilst women should have a covered head and arms, with either long trousers or a long skirt.

If you are unable to visit the Grand Mosque please feel free to check out the 360 degree virtual tour provided by the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque official website.

Islamic Art and Architecture Vol. 5 – Art of War

Our final post on Islamic Art and Architecture looks at the military. The 15th century war mask above was used in both Turkey and western Iran to motivate troops. The story told to us by the guide was that the commanding officer would charge into battle wearing the mask. Should he be killed then the next in command would quickly don the mask so that the infantrymen would think their leader was invincible. The mask also hid the pain from his face from the wounds he would undoubtedly have received from fierce face-to-face combat.

Turkish turban helmet from the early 16th century.


Ivory Italian Oliphant (Hunting Horn) c11th or 12th century.


Turkish axe and shield from the late 16th – early 17th century.


A 17th century Indian priming flask made of ivory, steel and glass, for loading early versions of muskets.


Dagger and Scabbard from India c1800. Made of steel, jade, rubies, emeralds, diamonds, gold and velvet.


Carved Afghanistan Cenotaph 1455 AD.

Islamic Art and Architecture Vol. 4 – Science and Literature

Astrolabes, like the one above, were used throughout the Islamic world for many centuries mainly to determine prayer time and the direction of Mecca.

The astrolabe at the top comes from Granada in Spain c1309 and the one at the bottom comes from the same region c1304. Both are made of brass.


Indian brass celestial globe c1640


Anatomical Illustration from the manuscript of Tashrih-i Mansuri a 15th century Persian physician.


A section of a 16th century Chinese Qur’an with ink pigments and gold on paper.


Another ink and gold section of the Qur’an this time from 14th century Egypt.


‘Babur Visits Humayun’s Camp’ a 16th century watercolour and gilt paint image from the Baburnameh, a book that recounts the story of Babur the founder of the Mughal dynasty, an empire in India.


Top: 19th century Turkish compass.
Centre: 19th century Syrian compass.
Bottom: 19th century Turkish ruler.

Islamic Art and Architecture Vol. 3 – Finery

Here are some of the finer things in life including the emerald wine cup (above) from India c1605. Wait! What? Wine?? 😉

18th century Ottoman wooden chest inlaid with mother-of-pearl. There is a mirror inside the box (not visible here) that suggests it was used by an elite member of the court.


Jewel encrusted Chopat (game set) from India c19th century


Bronze Fountainhead, Spanish Umayyad, Spain (Cordoba), mid 10th century.


Decorative silver sphere encrusted with rubies, emeralds and diamond. C1680 – India.


The Seal of Shah Sulayman of Iran carved from rock crystal c1668 – 1669.


Jeweled Falcon from India c1640. Gold and enamel encrusted with rubies, emeralds, diamonds, sapphires and onyx.


Shirazi Wooden Chest from the Arabian Gulf – 18th century. Decorated with brass studs and engraved brass sheets.

Islamic Art and Architecture Vol. 2 – Decor

The Museum of Islamic Art had a fascinating section that included ceramics, textiles and woodwork dating back to the 7th century. Here are just some of the stunning samples we saw, such as the Turkish tile above c1560, that uses a technique called ‘fritware’ in which ground glass is mixed with the clay and baked at high temperatures to ensure appropriate fusion with the ceramic.

Not so old 19th century Indian cabinet – wood with ivory, pewter and ebony inlay.


15th century carved wooden panel from Iran.


17th century Cuerda Seca tiles from Kashmir or Lahore. Tiles like this were traditionally used to decorate the walls of both palaces and tombs. The Cuerda Seca technique involves the use of thin lines of some sort of greasy substance to prevent the water soluble glazes running together.


17th century carved sandstone Jali screen from India.


Early 15th century silk pile Ashtapada (Chessboard) carpet from Central Asia.


Further examples of Cuerda Seca fritware tiles, this time from 17th century Iran.


Egyptian wooden door from the 14th century with ebony, cedar, walnut and bone (ivory) inlay.

Islamic Art and Architecture Vol. 1 – Everyday Life

During a recent visit to the city of Doha, Qatar, we were fortunate enough to spend an hour in the Museum of Islamic Art (above) on the picturesque Corniche. Throughout the rest of Ramadan we will share with you some of the centuries old culture we experienced, beginning with Everyday Life.

Green glass bottle c12th or 13th century – Iran.

Brass jug with silver and gold inlay from Afghanistan, c15th century.

9th century glass bottle alongside a 6th – 8th century document holder, both from Iran.

15th century Iranian Kashkul or ‘Beggars Bowl’, usually used by Islamic mystics, possibly Sufis, who had taken a vow of poverty.

Stall holder from the Souq Waqif in Doha

Stall holder from the Souq Waqif in Doha playing a Rababah – a Bedouin violin with only one string.

Al Ameen Mosque

This incredible building is called the Muhammad Al Ameen Mosque and is situated just off 23rd July Street in the district of Bausher, near our home.


Named after the Prophet Muhammed it was privately financed to the cost of 40million Omani rials and bears the third largest carpet in the world costing around US$4million to weave.


The mosque was opened in 2014 by Sheikh Ahmed bin Hamad al Khalili the Grand Mufti of the Sultanate of Oman. Here’s a closer look at the intricate designs in the domes and spires.


The mosque covers an area approximately 20,000sqm in size and caters for a maximum of 2,100 worshippers at any one time and there is a library spread across two floors so as to accommodate the 12,000+ volumes of Islamic literature.


For women there is an area of 450sqm to allow up to 570 female worshippers to attend prayers at any one time.


Day or night, it is an amazingly beautiful piece of Omani architecture.


Crown Jewels

As @BeefeaterDave pointed out to us, these jewels are real. They are not copies, fakes, faux gems or cubic zirconia, they are the real Crown Jewels. From memory the conversation went something like this;

“Now ladies, when you go into the building next door make sure you see the Sovereign’s Sceptre. When you find the sceptre check out the Cullinan I diamond positioned at the top.”

Beefeater Dave was a ruggedly handsome man who held the ladies in thrall, but the mention of the word ‘diamond’ seemed to snap them out of their daydreams.

“Also known as the Star of Africa it is the largest diamond ever found, weighing in at around 530 carats.”

The collective drooling in the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula was disgusting.

“Have a long hard look at this diamond ladies and then gaze down at the ring finger of your left hand.”

Uh oh, where was he going with this?

“See that tiny little thing that you husband, boyfriend, fiancé has given you.”

Low blow Dave.

“Take another look at the Cullinan I.”

Don’t do it Dave.

“Now slap your partner.”

Bloody Beefeaters 😉

Sorry there are no pictures of the jewels, but photography was forbidden :-/